I personally was intrigued by an Arabian Nights theme, but then I grew to love these characters. The story is very original, drawing from the 1001 Nights without following it directly. Aladdin is an adorable character who is quite easy to laugh at, along with Alibaba. As the story progesses, more characters are introduced, making the interactions better, and much much funnier.
Notice: This review covers both seasons of this anime.
Magi is an oddball shonen anime for constantly changing what it is all about. Yeah, it always shows magicians and genies, but once more information is revealed regarding the characters and the setting, it shifts considerably how it plays out. At first it is about dungeon crawling, where people explore magic areas in order to find fabled treasures and magic items. Once said items are acquired, said people attempt to be kings of their own land, so the show drops the dungeons and becomes about how to be a good ruler, while stopping evil rulers and misguided rebels from destroying the kingdom. And once that is achieved, it becomes about how a nation can co-exist with other nations, so they can form an alliance and stop an evil force from destroying the continent.
It has an interesting methodology, where it constantly increases the stakes and broadens the scope of the world, without reusing the exact same way to overcome every situation. From this perspective, Magi is a very special show for switching objectives and expanding the effect character actions have on the world.
But if that’s the case, then why is it not highly regarded in the anime community? It’s not like it’s an obscure production by a studio nobody knows of, and the way I describe it makes it sound like it should be placed next to FMA, and HXH. As you can probably imagine, it has to do with presentation. A-1 Pictures is a studio with inconsistent animation quality. Some parts look great, others look like crap. It’s not like you can get used to it, like you do with Pierrot and Toei, which is mostly crap and gets good during major events. The quality constantly wavers within the same episode, regardless of how important the events are. And seriously, the animators have an ass fetish; they keep zooming on women’s buttocks for no reason other than fan service.
It also doesn’t help how the characters deform to chibi doodles when something funny is going on. The Japanese audience may love that shit, but the western audience finds it extremely annoying. I mean, there are many who don’t like a splendid production like FMAB because of the deformity during comedic scenes. Imagine how worse it feels when the same thing happens in Magi, way more often and with way worse animation quality.
It also has to do with Aladdin, the protagonist of the series. Not only he has no relation with the original fairy tale, but is also hard to simply like the guy. He looks and talks like a girl, acts like a retard, deforms to a blob every few minutes, has an unsettlingly huge fascination with women’s breasts, has a powerful genie he can use anytime he wants as a cheap deus ex machina, has super special powers nobody else possesses, has destiny securing his victory, and keeps trying to solve everything with the power of friendship.
This might have worked if the show was a slapstick comedy, yet it isn’t. He is out of place with the setting, solves his problems with plot convenience, and there is no way you can take him seriously or at least find him cool. He is obnoxious, and his very existence damages the otherwise interesting setting.
This could have been mitigated if the protagonist was his friend Ali Baba (yes, they are friends in this story) since he is a far more level-headed fellow, who takes his quest to become a good leader far more seriously. But nope, we just have to tolerate an airhead moeblob with a boob fascination.
The setting ends up being the best thing about the show, as it gets considerably fleshed out. It starts off as a bland copy of the Arabian Nights, and progressively enlarges to include other cultures, more kingdoms, while not forgetting to delve into its cosmology and spirituality. It is also quite morbid and violent, since it constantly shows corpses, torture, slavery, mayhem, and out of screen rape.
Unfortunately, the dark elements are presented in such exaggerated ways that only manage to damage the presentation. Suffering from the usual tonal shifts of creators who don’t know what balance or subtlety is, everything feels cartoony instead of brutal. The villains are one-dimensional assholes, who laugh manically and love to torture innocent people just because. The victimizing card is overplayed as means to constantly justify the actions of the autistic Ali-Baba, a one-dimensional moeblob of childish positivity, sharing rainbows and unicorns with everyone. The characterization is shallow, and the way everybody resolves their issues, is by pulling magic trinkets out of their ass that can make anything possible.
There is a lot of quantification in how magic works in the series, which superficially makes it understandable, but as it usually happens with anything magical, it can be abused very easily and never convinces you there are actual limitations. This makes most of the battles boring, despite the flashy visual effects. There is also some sword fighting but the animation is very inconsistent and makes it look more silly than exciting. There are also martial arts, which have decent choreography but are still ruined by the camera constantly zooming on Morgiana’s ass, as she jumps in the air or performs round houses. Essentially, all resolutions are unimaginative and anti-climactic, usually solving a conflict in the same episode it is introduced.
In conclusion, the build-up is very good, and there is variety in themes and events, empires, evil kings, gangs of criminals, boobs, and spells cast by huge nipple-piercing genies. It is a darker Fairy Tail, far from something great, and nothing more than a time waster, once again proving how edgy shit mean nothing and comic relief needs to stay the hell away from major events.
Ever since the Anime adaptation of "Hunter x Hunter" ended, I have had a massive feeling of emptiness in my heart that has never truly been filled up by any other Shounen type series. And for a long time, it felt like I would never truly find a series of the same genre and demographic that could move me in a similar manner, or feel on as epic a scale as Yoshihiro Togashi's masterpiece.
However, after a lot of suggestion from my girlfriend, a close friend of mine, and the Anime community, I finally decided to check out this show, and I have a lot of thoughts to give on it. So without further delay, let's take a look at this little series.
"Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic" (and it's sequel season "Magi: The Kingdom of Magic") is the Anime adaptation of the on-going Shounen Manga series of the same name created and illustrated by Shinobu Ohtaka. Since its debut in 2012, "Magi" has become an instant hit, with many claiming it to be one of the freshest and amazing pieces of work ever created within the Shounen demographic.
This review will cover both seasons of the Anime, and examine the show as a whole, as I really don't feel like writing out an identical wall of text for both seasons.
So how is "Magi"? Well, let's take a look...
The premise of "Magi" is rather simple. The story follows a young boy named Aladdin, who after being alone for most of his life, begins to travel the world to find himself. During his travels, he meets a young man named Alibaba, who's main goal is to one day capture the dungeon of Amon and takes its treasures for himself. Eventually, the two become close friends, and capture Amon together, meeting a girl named Morgiana and defeating some bad guys along the way, and everyone becomes separated, hoping to one day meet each other again.
While searching for Alibaba, Aladdin learns that is a Magi, a rare breed of Magician who have the power to not only use their own Rukh (the energy that is used in casting magic), but the Rukh of everyone and everything around them. Throughout history, Magi's have always chosen Kings and leaders, and have been responsible for founding many nations and kingdoms throughout the world. However, there have always been only three Magi's in every era, and Aladdin is an unheard of fourth Magi.
The story then follows Aladdin as he tries to come to grips with accepting his destiny as a Magi, and Alibaba as he attempts to save his home country from a dictatorship and a civil war that threatens to destroy all he loves and adores.
The premise is very well set up and is incredibly intriguing. It is very unique for a Shounen series, in the sense that it has a great deal of focus on its world and characters, as opposed to a story that is used as a template to create convenient fights between the characters. It is a great premise that promises a lot of things and sets up a world that is both captivating and unique.
An interesting and well constructed world:
One thing that makes "Magi" really stand out from its peers, is the unique world that has been constructed by Ohtaka. The world is strongly based on old Arabian tales, but despite this obvious influence, the world manages to stand on its own two feet. It is filled with magic, it is bustling with energy, and it really feels like a lot of effort and thought were put into constructing it. Most Shounen series suffer from the problem of creating a world, and then not doing too much with it. "Bleach" for example, is a world about Soul Reapers and Hollows and what not, but the world is just an excuse for awesome and flashy fighting to happen. "Naruto" is a world of Ninjas, yet the Ninjas themselves couldn't be further from what a Ninja actually is. "Magi" on the other hand, feels like an authentic Arabian setting. On top of this authentic feeling, the world itself is beautifully constructed, and has a lot of interesting ideas floating around in it, as well as a rich history that is very detailed and relevant to the story line.
But the above things mentioned, are all set up. How about the actual story of "Magi"? Well, it is fairly good, albeit a little cheesy sometimes. The story is, for the most part, very well written, with a lot of interesting twists and turns when necessary, and a lot of dramatic moments where the audience simply can't wait to see what happens next. There are a lot of well written scenes in this Anime, and the quality of storytelling is very good for the most part.
That being said, there are a few moments where things can get a little cheesy. Although it's something I've come to expect from the Shounen demographic, there are a few cases where "the power of friendship" comes into play to resolve conflicts. I've never been a fan of "friendship conquers all" and I don't consider it to be good writing in the slightest. That being said however, it is far from the worst use of it I've seen, and it doesn't happen often enough for it to be a major issue, but it does at times damage what is otherwise a very well written and dramatic storyline that is among the best I've ever seen from Shounen Anime.
The battles in the series are also very entertaining, with the whole Rukh and magic concept being very fun and interesting. The battles aren't all that smart, or involve a lot of tactics (aside from a few instances near the end of season two), but they are still entertaining as hell, which is a win in my book.
Dramatic shifts in tone:
However, one thing that occassionally bugged me with "Magi" is its very strange way of shifting the tone of its world and its themes. The tone of the series has shown to be very incosistent sometimes. What do I mean by this?
Well, at one moment, we could have a scene where one of the main characters, who is a female slave, is being brutally beaten, and the villain is practically saying he's going to rape her and make her "pop out babies" continuously, but in a previous scene, we have Aladdin and Alibaba drinking and picking up chicks in a tavern, acting like this stuff doesn't even exist in their world.
Then we have lots of political intrigue in the form of an uprising from the citizens of a city, trying to overthrow the government, then shortly after, we have lots of fan-service with tits and ass.
I understand the need for comedy in a series, and I don't particularly mind it that much, as I find the humour funny. However, it sometimes feels like the series doesn't really know what kind of tone it's trying to go for, whether it be the dark and serious tone of "Attack on Titan" or the hilarious and comedic tone of "Gintama". "Magi" instead chooses to throw itself directly in the middle of these two constrasting tones, which is a little weird.
In regards to the pacing of its story, "Magi" is also very hit or miss. The initial episodes of the series are simply there to introduce the characters, and go by rather fast. However, these episodes at times feel a little too fast. After this, we have some very short and quick arcs, which are summed up in a few episodes, which again feels too fast. Then we get to the Balbadd Arc, which is essentially the meat and bones of the first season, and is very well paced. After this, the series pacing becomes just right, with everything feeling not too fast or too slow.
The main reason for the brisk pace at the beginning was due to them condensing so many chapters into a few episodes. I assume they did this so they could get straight to the Balbadd Arc. Why didn't they simply add more episodes to the episode count?
However, despite the slight issue with the pacing, I have little to complain about. It was still far better paced than most Shounen adaptations, and there was no filler to be found in sight, so it could have been far worse.
Unfortunately, due to the Manga still on-going, the second season of "Magi" ends on a cliffhanger. The ending is certainly a very satisfying conclusion, and it is worth all the build up, with an enjoyable journey towards it, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions lingering that simply cannot be answered without reading the Manga. I know I could go read the Manga, but I will remain adamant about my usual point which is: no Anime should ever force its audience to go read the source material.
"Magi" definitely needs to be adapted more. A third season would be very nice, and I really hope it comes back some day.
All in all, the story of "Magi" is fairly good. It's not the shows strongest point, and it's not the best written thing in the world, but it is still far above average, and if you can see past its glaring flaws, you'll have a very enjoyable time with it.
But what really drives "Magi" is not its story, but its characters. The characters are very well written and enjoyable to follow. I will detail the main cast below:
Aladdin: Aladdin is one of the two protagonists of "Magi" and is one of the legendary magicians known as a Magi. He is a young boy, who spent most of his early life in solitude, with no friends, until one day he met Ugo, a Djinn creature, who became his first friend. Aladdin now travels the world with Alibaba, in hopes that he can fulfill his duty as a Magi, and make the world a better and safer place.
As a character, Aladdin is very interesting. He is fairly unique from the average Shounen protagonist, as he is a lot more innocent, and childish than the stereotypes we have grown accustomed to. Aladdin dislikes fighting, and he is completely selfless, always looking out for others instead of his own well being. He is a very likeable character.
Aladdin develops fairly well as the protagonist. He starts off as a clueless and innocent child, who understands very little of himself or the world around him, and he eventually develops into a very wise and responsible person, who comes to accept his destiny as a Magi, and strives to protect the world and its order from chaos and destruction.
He is a very well written character, solely because he stands out from the rest of the typical Shounen protagonists. He's not exactly Gon Freecss, but he's probably the closest we'll ever get to him for years so he's great in my book.
Alibaba Saluja: Alibaba is the other protagonist of the story, and is a young man with high ambitions to conquer the dungeon of Amon and claim it's power for his own ambitions.
Alibaba is a very well written character, and he is extremely likeable. Unlike Aladdin, he is very emotional in his actions, and he clearly has a lot less innocence to his attitude and the way he does things. Despite this, he is still a very noble man and is good at heart, always seeking the best out of everything and everyone.
His backstory is one of the central focuses of the story as well, which creates a lot of amazingly character driven scenarios with him. This past is very fleshed out and brings a lot to his character.
He also develops very well, eventually becoming a very powerful and strong willed person, who begins to succeed in his ambitions. He is well grounded, and a fantastic second lead.
Morgiana: Morgiana is the female protagonist of the series and is a member of the legendary Fanalis tribe, who once hailed from the Dark Continent (hey look, it's a "Hunter x Hunter" reference). She is a slave, due to her tribe being brought into slavery, however after meeting Aladdin and Alibaba she is granted her freedom and becomes friends with the two boys.
As a character, she is very hard to read. She doesn't show a lot of emotions, which normally, I would consider to be bad writing and poor in terms of character personality, as I find emotionless characters to be uninspiring and boring. However, Morgiana is an exception to this, as she has clear reasons for being this way, due to her life being spent in slavery. The trauma from these events makes it difficult for her to open up to others, but she eventually does so in the form of character development, which is both believable and well handled.
However, despite all my praise for Morgiana, she isn't as fleshed out as I wanted her to be, and she doesn't get anywhere near as much screen time as I feel she should have, especially during the second season, where she isn't seen for episodes. This makes her feel slightly neglected at times, but otherwise, isn't that much of an issue. All in all, she is a good character.
In terms of secondary character "Magi" does a fairly decent job. A lot of them have key roles in the story, and are memorable, such as Sinbad and Hakuryu. However, there are also several who aren't really all that memorable, nor do they contribute much to the story, making them feel wasted.
The villains of the story however, are in their own league. They are all memorable, have great personalities and have interesting motives and goals, especially the Magi Judar, who acts as a sharp contrast and rival to Aladdin.
To sum up, the characters of "Magi" are fantastic for the most part. They are what makes the show what it is, as they single handedly drive the story and move it forward, something that is usually the opposite in Shounen.
Art and Animation:
"Magi" was produced by A-1 Pictures, a studio renowned for having very high production values and producing some aesthetically beautiful series such as "Sword Art Online" and (as much as I hate to admit it) "Aldnoah.Zero".
But how did they do with "Magi"?
Well, the general aesthetics are absolutely stunning, and there is a lot of colour and brightness to the world and its characters. Everything is bursting with a rainbow of vibrancy, and the world itself looks so whimsical.
The character designs are also very nice and detailed, especially their clothing, which fits the setting very well and sets each character apart from one another. The backgrounds are also very beautiful, and really capture the Arabian fairy tale setting the series is going for.
However, despite the art looking fantastic, the actual art style isn't the most unique, and it doesn't really stand out from its peers. Most on-going Shounen series have their own sense of unique style, be it "Bleach" with its super realistic style, or "One Piece" with its cartoony style. "Magi" however, in terms of style, looks fairly similar to "Fairy Tail", almost too similar. It's a little annoying,
In terms of animation, everything moves very nicely, with the animation being great for the most part. The battle scenes especially are beautiful. The Rukh are so fucking pretty to look at. Aghhhhh! However, there is the occassional part where CGI is thrown in, and we all know that CGI ruins animation. Stop doing it!
Overall, the art and animation are very well done, and "Magi" is one of the best looking and well animated Shounen series I've ever seen.
And once again, "Magi" excels in the sound department spectacularly.
The music of the series is absolutely breathtaking. The tracks all sound very authentic to the setting, having that kind of Arabian and "Aladdin" feeling to them, using a lot of flute instruments. On top of this authenticity, the music is well produced and has enough variety to remain satisfying and not get repetitive.
The series has four Opening themes. The first Opening is "V.I.P" by SID and it is absolutely fantastic! The second is "Matataku Hoshi no Shita de" by Porno Graffitti which isn't as good as "V.I.P" but it's still awesome. The third is "Anniversary" by SID, which is again, very awesome. Finally we have "Hikari" by ViViD which again, is fantastic.
The series also has four Ending themes. The first one is "Yuni Boenkyo" by Nogizaka46 (weird name) and it is great. The next ending theme is "The Bravery" by Supercell which is also great. The third one is "Eden" by Aqua Timez which is very good. Finally, we have "With you/With me" by 9nine which is awesome.
The voice acting is also fantastic, and although there is an English Dub, I opted for the Japanese voice track for the first time ever because my girlfriend prefers subtitles. Despite this, I have listened to both versions, and each were very well done, with the characters being portrayed brilliantly in either language and each track being of good quality. However, the English Dub is a little weak in some areas, mostly Aladdins voice actress, due to it being her first voice role ever.
The sound effects are also fantastic. There is variety, there is cleanness and there is liveliness. They are great.
So how is "Magi" as a whole? Well, it's certainly not "Hunter x Hunter" (nothing will ever be that good), but it did help to fill the massive hole left behind by it, if only for a short while, and I think it is a truly excellent Shounen series that has the potential to grow into something amazing if it were to continue as an Anime series.
But even if it doesn't continue as an Anime, as it stands now, it is still heights above your average Shounen series. It may have a few hiccups here and there, but is otherwise a well written story with brilliant characters, fantastic art and animation and beautiful music, well acted voices and great sound effects.
"Magi" isn't going to redefine Shounen Anime, nor is it doing anything particularly new with its concepts, story or characters, but it doesn't need to because it excels in so many areas and is a very enjoyable tale set in a wonderfully crafted world with lots of political intrigue.
Thank you "Magi". You helped heal the wound left by Yoshihiro Togashi's hiatus, even if it was only for a short while.
And now, it's scoring time:
Premise 3/3 - Very well set up and interesting, building a unique world that feels fresh.
General Plot 1/2 - It is well written for the most part, and has lots of epic moments. However, the shift in tone is a little strange sometimes and the plot can be a little cheesy.
Pacing 2/3 - Starts off a little too quick paced, but eventually slows down to a perfect pace that feels just right.
Conclusion 1/2 - A very well done conclusion. However, it ends on a cliffhanger and practically begs for a third season. And no, I shouldn't have to read the Manga.
Artwork 2/3 - Everything is incredibly colourful and vibrant and looks whimsical. Locations are beautiful. Art style isn't the most unique however, and doesn't stand out as well as it could have.
Character Designs 3/3 - The character designs are very detailed, and all stand out from one another. Attention to detail wtih clothes and Djinn equips look fucking awesome.
Animation 3/4 - Very smooth and well animated for the most part. Battle scenes are very well done. However CGI ruins it at some points.
Personality 2/3 - Most of the characters are brimming with personality and are memorable. However, there are a few who really don't need to be there and serve little purpose.
Development 2/3 - Most of the characters, primary and secondary develop well. However, Morgiana could use more screen time and development, as could a few others.
Uniqueness 4/4 - Every character is unique to the genre. Aladdin is pure hearted, Alibaba shows a darker side to himself and Morgiana is an emotionless character who actually has a reason for being so and develops out of that personality.
Voice Acting 3/4 - The voice cast in both languages perform very well. However, the English Dub is a little weak when it comes to Aladdin due to the actress being new.
Music 4/4 - The music fits the setting and events very well and is of good quality and variety. The opening and ending themes are also great.
Sound Effects 2/2 - The sound effects are well produced and bring things to life.
It's a truly excellent series, and one you should definitely check out.
But hey, I actually enjoyed "WIXOSS", and everyone else hated the shit out of it, so my opinion probably doesn't matter to you people.
I can't think of any flaws within this show except for maybe Alibaba's way of yelling out obvious statements and making everything sound cheesy......though that's just in the dub. I give the story a perfect score because most shows always make the characters go on an adventure for some super deep reason, but this one lets them go on an adventure just to strike it rich! (And later other reasons) The animation was extremely appealing to me for some reason, the soundtracks were the bomb, and some of these characters were just beautiful........both main and secondary characters alike. Especially people like Morgiana and KASSIM <3 and Judar. Can't forget Judar. Anyway, this show was really, really good in my opinion. If you haven't already, I suggest you watch it. I found it to be worth the watch. True, this is an incredibly short review, but just. Watch. It. NOW.
Now at the top of this review you will see that I did not finish this anime, I watch 12 episodes and then the 25(last) one and then dropped. This is a 6, which means below my recommend standard. I would not recommend this anime. "was it really that horrible" you ask? No, the animations were gorgeous, there was just the right amount of fan service, and it was pretty funny too. "so why would you not recommend it"? allow me to explain in my usual report.
Story: this would have been an 8, the story is interesting and adventerous. HOWEVER, and if you have seen my other reviews then you know that I hate arc/prob of the day style animes. This one was in arcs, which isnt always bad, but usually and like in Magi, it weakened the end game of the anime. I have been reading on some forums and it seems like A-1 studios is really good at making anime look pretty, but doing their own Original Anime Ending, and messing up everything. Case and Point, Magi. 7 for decent, but arc style and not having a particularly strong ending.
Animation: was beautiful, 10, loved it
Sound: had a good number of soundtracks, and some pretty cool ones, voice actors were nice and solid and pretty convincing. 9
Characters: this got a little weird, I just watched Samurai 7 and the characters in that one got a bit weird too, in very much the same way. Sinbad ended up filling a spot that Alibab should have start to fill as he developed, and alladdin, acting or seeming like he didnt know that much, seemed to know more then he should for as ignorant as he sounded. Morgiana was ok, and I watched the last episode so a little spoiler on her character type SPOILER shes a tsudere, and by the end you can tell she loves alibaba END SPOILER
characters were kinda weird right in the middle though, and alibaba was being way too much of a pacifist to be interesting really, it was pissing me off. A good anime has a main character who has the balls, but also the wisdom to do what needs to be done. I was not getting that from Alibaba, I was getting that from Sinbad. which seemed way weird.
overall: the decent but not overbearing fan service, the amazing visuals, and the humor was what kept me in for so long. But due to the way the story ended up(and apparently it diverged from the manga) and the arc style gives it a 6 for me.
I only recommend watching if you are really hell bent on wasting some time for the lulz. in that case just enjoy the scenery the humor and the little bit of fanservicy stuff.